Hoarding Information for Shelter Medicine


Previously known as “collecting,” Animal Hoarding is a poorly understood phenomenon that transcends simply owning or caring for more than the typical number of pets, and affects every community in the United States.

Animal Hoarding is not about animal sheltering, rescue or sanctuary and should not be confused with these legitimate efforts to help animals. It is about satisfying a human need to accumulate animals and control them, superseding the needs of the animals involved. Animal Hoarding is defined as:

  • Having more than the typical number of companion animals.
  • Failing to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in illness and death from starvation, spread of infectious disease and untreated injury or medical condition.
  • Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling.
  • Persistence, despite this failure, in accumulating and controlling animals.

As a community problem, Animal Hoarding is cruel to animals and can devastate families, be associated with elder abuse, child abuse and self-neglect and can also be costly for municipalities to resolve. Without appropriate post-intervention treatment, the behavior to hoard is almost always 100% repetitive. Increased awareness, leading to more comprehensive long-term interventions, is needed.

The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) is a group of researchers who collaborated from 1997-2006 to define and better understand the problem of animal hoarding. Today, the mission of HARC continues through the work of veterinary epidemiologist Dr. Gary Patronek and social worker/rehabilitation counselor Jane N. Nathanson.